County terminates contract with former sheriff

Published 9:16 am Friday, July 27, 2012

COURTLAND—Southampton County supervisors on Monday terminated a $1,800 monthly contract with retired Sheriff Vernie Francis to maintain the emergency communication system, which includes 911.

Sheriff Jack Stutts, who was not at the meeting, said Wednesday he has one employee familiar with the equipment, but that employee is too busy to take on more work.

“I don’t understand making the decision to terminate the contract and not having a plan to back it up,” Stutts said.

County Administrator Mike Johnson said he and Stutts will have to come up with a plan. Francis must be given a 30-day notice, which means his contract will expire at the end of August, Johnson said.

Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike for several months has been questioning the need for the contract with Francis.

“Let this be the last month we pay it,” Updike told the board on Monday. “Let someone do it in-house.”

Stutts had heard about Updike’s concerns, but understood that a committee would meet with him on the matter.

“I was told to expect a call from board members, who wanted to meet with me,” Stutts said.

He said he never heard from anyone.

The county at one time had contracted with another former employee to maintain the system, which includes four towers, 911 equipment, and all radios and pagers for police and fire departments, Stutts said. When that person left, Francis took over the contract because his 28 years with the office allowed him to be familiar with the equipment.

“When a piece of equipment breaks down, Vernie would take care of it,” Stutts said.

The money to pay the contract does not come out of the sheriff’s budget, but from a county fund.